I was increasingly restless as they day went on, but once my head was clear, I returned to the book. As Pal'lud had said, there were many important bits about godhood, most in the latter half of the book; the first half was introductions and explanations and political things that needed to be said, specifically to the next Goddess of Blades. The latter half was actually locked, with a very specific seal: use blue soulflame, and the pages could be read for the next few hours. Use anything else and the book would be destroyed, along with whoever was nearby. The instructions were very clear on that.
There were instructions prior to that for tapping into specifically blue soulflame, but nothing else that actually revealed godly secrets. The next pages talked about the types of flame, with a bit more detail than I had expected:
There is only one form of this flame deemed truly pure, and that is clearflame, but that flame is not worth the cost to produce it, although a facility exists in the temple to do this. All other forms of flame are tainted by mortal concerns, some more than others.
Let it be known here, before all else, that there are three flames of greatest danger to you:
Black flame is heretical to all gods, for it is the flame of madness and undeath. In all cases, black flame and its wielders must be destroyed at all costs, for they are tainted by souls who damn themselves and damn the gods. It is only by overwhelming the black flame with other flame that it can be thoroughly crushed. Let no mortal know of the existence of this flame, for this heresy may spread like a disease.
Black flame may be produced by ashen flame, for the souls of the righteous living are reduced to ash when they fall before their time. Those whose wrongs have not been righted, if their flame is collected or trapped, shall become undead. Accept no ashen flame unless you can be certain that the creature can be saved, for to become tainted as a goddess is heresy itself. You shall never want for power, goddess of blades, and you need not deal with such dark arts.
The last flame of danger is blood, and this is the flame you most need to fear. For blood flame is stolen, and many will pledge the blood of their foes to you. Accept this never, or use another flame to destroy it if you must, but it shall never be collected nor trapped. Blood flame retains a spark of life, and heretics may use it to steal the mind and soul of the living, but it is also the flame closest to black, for it will always become tainted with hatred and despair. For to have the one most important thing stolen, the soul itself, is the greatest of heresies...
That... I honestly didn't want to think about that, but I had to. The monsters had used blood flame; I knew that. And they had stolen it from the dying. Did that mean that they were literally stealing the living soul of their targets and destroying it for power? I shivered.
I'd had the thought that Djinn might use whole souls, but to consider that the monsters from the underworld would steal your soul just by attacking was terrifying. And also... the whole thing about black flame being specifically undeath itself was creepy, and it made sense that Alanna had to wipe it out, including calling in her father for help.
And that a sailor on the tainted shipwreck had simply, mysteriously, walked off a ledge and broken his hip. I had thought of soulflame as magic, in a sense, and so it was strange that it would have that effect, but if it was mad, dead souls... ugh.
I wanted to stop or skip ahead, but I read on, and was glad that I did:
This test is established by godhood in time immemorial, that those possessing soulflame shall affect flames around them. Stand not too close to a fire, for those who know of the test shall see the marks of godhood in you. However, it is imperative to keep such fires, for if ever a flame is to go black, then a necromancer, one touched by the black flames, has appeared. Hunt them, but be wary: for those truest to the name of Necromancer are arcanists who have trapped flame and possess it. Heresy though it is, they may use the power of undeath as gods use the power of worship.
Never allow such a necromancer to live, for this heresy shall destroy peace and goodness, and all shall be ruin in the nation of Belma.
That last line was written very convincingly, and I could feel an ancient urging from the original author, begging that it be taken seriously. It was... a very strange echo of the past. In a way, it seemed like there should be an echo of the god who wrote it, but... she was dead, obviously. For all that I sometimes felt like just thinking of gods or goddesses called them to me, at least a little, having a sense of a dead goddess was... well, it didn't feel great, but it was kind of a load off my mind, too.
Still... I had to admit that the possibility of mortals knowing things I didn't know about using soulflame was interesting. It was a weird thing to admit, but...
I shook my head, feeling again like something was waiting and watching. No, I decided, I would have plenty of time to think things out, experiment, and ask questions of other gods--including ones with experience I'd never get otherwise. It was definitely a bad idea to encourage mortals to covet godly power. If Necromancers were able to use black flame to cast spells...
Actually, from my experience, you had to use a lot of flame to do anything. Encouraging mortal casters to use it would likely mean encouraging them to get lots and lots of flame for very little results, and that would mean terrible losses for nothing. Better that they learn to use proper magic that wasn't tied to undeath and madness.
With that thought, I felt pressure ease off that I was only dimly aware of. Was the whole field of necromancy and black flame so scary that even gods were in danger of corruption? I shivered, and just to be sure, asked my Avatar to use whatever flame it needed to to purge any black flame that might have gotten into me. There was... maybe just the smallest pinch of black from somewhere, and it vanished. I didn't even feel it, but that was all the more worrisome.
The next few paragraphs of the book were more about the "flame test" and the ways it could be warded against. You could prepare candles or torches in a way that they would never react, or would react only to the forbidden flames, for your temples and such; you could put up certain spell barriers or put bindings on your own body to limit the amount of soulflame contained in it, although this weakened your godly abilities a lot, until you removed it. And, you could forsake a body's use of soulflame entirely, creating a different type of avatar that was pure.
Interestingly, the same technique was used to make the "Hag of Ciel'ostra", who inherited all of the green flame; that body simply swore off all other flames, and all other bodies swore off green flames. In theory, a god could refuse all green flames as a general principle, but it was a potent source of magic, especially for a war goddess, who would be hated by her enemy and therefore become stronger. The book mentioned that blood flame and necromantic flame should be sworn off, although ashen flame was acceptable in a few specific circumstances:
For ashen flame is not stolen, and thus it is not heresy. Be kind, when you take it, and right the wrongs and carry the burdens of the lost, for if you do, all that is theirs shall become yours. They may rise as angels, to carry your will to a Vicar, or they may be consumed, and the secrets and knowledge of their mortal life shall become yours. Be virtuous and respectful in your takings, for falseness as a goddess will rot the souls in your care.
Understand this carefully, for it has been proven true: ash is all that remains of a mortal soul, and it yet bears the marks and weight of a living soul. That which turns ashen flames black is not only malice; a mortal may turn to darkness whenever a god does not care for them, and some even turn when they are beloved, protected, and guided, for darkness takes root in wounds, and corrupts from within. If you cannot heal the wounds of the soul you have accepted, do not contain it, for the rot shall fester until a blight walks this earth, cursing your name. Only when a soul is free can they accept that no god is to blame for their suffering, for if they remain within your grace and are not safe and satisfied, then there truly is no fault to be had but your own.
That was... in a way, already what I understood, if a bit more in depth. I turned the page and skimmed ahead, but the talk of other flames was a lot less thought provoking, and so I came back to the talk of the forbidden flames, thinking.
Only when a soul is free can they accept that no god is to blame for their suffering. That was an oddly philosophical thing, assuming that it wasn't somehow literally true... so I had to assume that it was meant to be a literal truth, in this world. It made a certain sense, emotionally speaking. But also... some people would convince themselves that gods were at fault anyway, wouldn't they? People had convinced themselves on Earth that the gods were responsible for everything, when it couldn't possible be true.
The thing about healing the wounds of a soul... it wasn't really Ciel'ostra's domain, nor mine, but it made sense that we should, at least, have to try. If we are benefiting from sacrifice, we need to give back, and... health, mental and physical, seems like it's the least of the things we could do for people, right?
Of course, I, pretending to be my own Vicar, had not been healed yet. I mean, technically, I spent flame to keep myself from death, but lacking an eye was... for most people at least, a serious defect. I wasn't worried, personally; I was not in a situation where I needed it, and if I got there, I could easily justify either healing myself or giving myself some kind of boon to make up for the difference. But other people wouldn't have the same faith in me, and for good reason; unless I was watching them all the time, I might not know when they needed help, and they might not get it.
On that thought, I set the book aside and dived into my Little Gods' Room to observe my followers. There was an odd feeling hanging over the space, and in particular, hanging over Tammy and Raine. They were perhaps a bit more distant, a bit more faded, although I could tell their connection with me remained strong. I started to reach for Tammy, but she rejected the connection, with an unspoken subtext of soon. I wasn't... honestly sure what could be occupying her that she wouldn't want my help with, but I had to trust them. If they were busy with something... it was better not to interfere.
The general mood among my followers was split. Those with Murn were still mostly celebrating, while those few among our invading army who had bothered to connect with me were nervous. Assuming that nervousness was related to Tammy and Raine's troubles... I wished I had more information, but from what I could tell, none of them had any. Except perhaps Raine, but I had to give her time to handle whatever it was she needed to.
The question remained, though--what could I really do to help? Before turning back to the book, I considered my Little Gods' Room and its contents. Certainly, on the one hand it was only a metaphor, one that told me how many people were my followers, how attached they were, and it gave me an ability to interact with them if I chose to. But was that all? If that metaphor represented a fundamental truth, could I change it so that it was more useful--to me, or to all of us? At minimum, it seemed trivial to let followers identify one another, but how useful was that, really?
I considered Raine's place at the bottom of the cliff. If nothing else, I needed to consider what godly power I would be giving her if I, metaphorically, elevated her up the cliff, so she could see part of the horizon. It was nice in principle, but what would that metaphor mean? Or, if I got to decide what the metaphor meant, what SHOULD it mean? Divination? Farsight? The ability to read people's souls?
After a moment, I thought about the waterfall itself. It was only part of the space because I loved that place I had been put, but could I make use of it? Maybe for healing or purifying reasons? Then again, if I was God of Eyes, some might consider the waterfall to be my tears. I grimaced, but as I considered that thought, I thought I felt the Little God's Room change. The Me atop the cliff looked a bit more distant, the cliff a bit more solemn, and the water that fell seemed heavier. In a way, I could feel a familiarity to that weight; it felt a lot like the Eyes, whether the Eye of Condemnation, or the Eye of Mars. It felt like a great weight on my shoulders that perspective itself had given me, a weight that was more than mere power.
I turned and noticed that, as the metaphor of the Room changed, Tammy was now elevated higher than Raine, if only a bit. From a certain perspective... I was above them not because I saw more, but because I carried a greater weight than they did. I... could accept that. But then...
An idea struck me, and I nodded to myself quietly, the structure of the room changing slightly. I didn't immediately reposition Raine and Tammy, but that seemed like an obvious next step, when they were ready. If the whole space were about the weight of responsibility, the heavy burden of power... then the meaning of the tears was obvious to me. The burden came from power, and the tears carried power with them. If one could bear that burden, it was only natural that something would be gained.
I spent some time letting the image stabilize, and then rested for a time longer, before going back to the book.
Support "God of Eyes"
- Pseudonymous bastard
A lost soul looking for a path through life. My history has not provided a stable foundation quite yet, so who knows when it will all collapse. Hopefully not soon!
I have been writing stories since I was a child but I wasn't really encouraged or taught. I have developed bad habits and gotten lost inside myself, but still intend to keep fighting and trying to get myself set upright. Fortunately and not, I am not quite alone, but it's always hard to have the wrong kind of help, isn't it?
Best of luck to anyone silly enough to find this page. Work hard and don't end up like me. It has its upsides, but it's really not worth it...